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Post-nasal drip

When your nose and sinuses are blocked up with mucus, you have a tickle in your throat and maybe even a cough, you might have post-nasal drip. Find out more about the causes of post-nasal drip, and how you can treat and prevent it.

What is post-nasal drip?

‘Post-nasal drip’ is the medical term that describes when mucus from your nose or sinuses drips down the back of your throat.

Post-nasal drip can sometimes cause a cough, and if this happens it can be referred to as ‘upper airway cough syndrome’.

What causes post-nasal drip?

The most common causes of post-nasal drip are:

  • hay fever, which is inflammation of the inside lining of your nose, also called ‘allergic rhinitis’
  • sinusitis, which is inflammation of the hollow spaces in the bones of your face.

Other causes are asthma and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

Post-nasal drip symptoms

Symptoms of post-nasal drip include:

  • a cough
  • a ‘tickle’ in your throat or a sore throat
  • needing to clear your throat regularly
  • a lot of mucus in the throat
  • blocked or runny nose
  • hoarse voice.

People with post-nasal drip can also get bad breath.

Post-nasal drip treatment

The treatment for post-nasal drip depends on its cause.

If your post-nasal drip is caused by hay fever, then antihistamines, decongestant medicines and steroid nasal sprays can be effective treatments. Using a saline nasal spray can also help.

You can prevent hay fever by avoiding the substances you are allergic to. If you don’t know what you are allergic to, speak with your doctor who can refer you for allergy tests.

If your post-nasal drip is caused by sinusitis from a bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

You should also talk with your doctor about treatments for other causes of post-nasal drip, such as reflux and asthma.

Some things you can do to help ease the symptoms are:

  • drink more fluids (such as water) to thin out the mucus
  • avoid substances that cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeine, as these make symptoms worse
  • avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke and sudden temperature changes.

Last reviewed: January 2016

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